Negotiation Dos and Don’ts, Tips and Tricks

June 21, 2022
By Sue Doerfler

When it comes to negotiations, it’s all about people, said Mary Redmond, a negotiation and body language expert whose company is Fearless Negotiator LLC. People like to do business with those they know, like and trust, she said during “New Negotiation Tools and Techniques for Today’s Supply Chain Challenges.”

The session was part of ISM World 2022, Institute for Supply Management®’s (ISM®) Annual Conference, held in-person last month in Orlando, Florida, as well as in a hybrid format, with virtual pre-recorded sessions. This session was pre-recorded.

Redmond discussed four dynamics critical to any negotiation process, including (1) relationship building — establishing a rapport with suppliers — and (2) conducting research/gathering information before entering a negotiation. Do your homework — look on LinkedIn, set up a Google alert and look at public reports (if the company is publicly traded), among other measures. Data gathering should be done on new as well as existing suppliers, Redmond said.

Redmond offered these tips to those entering negotiations.

  • Realize that buyers have a lot of power — they can help or hurt any supplier.
  • Time is part of any negotiation. How do you use your time beforehand? In research and preparation? How do you spend your time with the supplier?
  • If suppliers are from other cultures, consider their customs and ways of doing business.
  • Organize your questions in a sequence beforehand.

Additionally, Redmond said, be prepared for the wants and needs of your suppliers. These can be explicit — like prices, volumes, financing or guarantees. Or they can be implicit, which can be harder to gauge. “These are things you can’t anticipate; you have to gather them in the conversation face to face, and it’s more difficult,” she said. Perhaps the supplier has to always be right or have the last word — and if that’s the case, “it’s going to be difficult to negotiate with them,” she said.

Key Takeaways

  • When negotiating, don’t place blame and watch your words and pronouns — avoid using “I,” “me” and “you” and instead say, “we” and “us.” “Finger-pointing is one of the worst pieces of body language you can do when you’re communicating with a supplier,” Redmond says.
  • Develop a Plan B (and C and D) before entering a negotiation.
  • Turn “maybe” into “yes” by asking more questions. Instead of taking “no” for an answer, ask, “What can you do?” or “How can we solve this?” Also: “What if …?” Collaborate and work with suppliers for solutions.


“What’s surprising is the percentage of decisions that are made based on implicit decisions as opposed to the lowest price-best terms explicit information. … (It) all goes back to wanting to do business with people you know, like and trust. Building that trust and relationship takes time.” — Redmond

(Image credit: Getty Images/Boris Zhitkov)

About the Author

Sue Doerfler

About the Author

As Senior Writer for Inside Supply Management® magazine, I cover topics, trends and issues relating to supply chain management.